Gene M. Eble

Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Communication Studies


Elections--United States; Television in politics--United States


The point of this present study is to look at television' s impact on the campaigns and elections of 1952 through 1960. "Impact" is defined as the effect on two things: the public's response to the candidates and issues, and the conduct of election processes. Most data for this study was brought together from various newspapers, magazines and scholarly works written during the studied period. The use of the historical- critical methodology was appropriate. This discussion begins with an overview of the growth of presidential radio. It becomes easier to see how television evolved when one sees how radio was used. Following the radio years, a separate analysis of 1952, 1956 and 1960 was done to ascertain the impact of television. Finally, a comparison of the three analyses ascertains patterns of impacts that appear in all the years or some of the years. The findings demonstrate that the introduction of spot commercials into Eisenhower's first campaign greatly galvanized advertising agencies. Ike's agency created many innovations to personalize him to television viewers. By 1956 they were an entrenched part of cam- pai gns. Also, three trends in the making of paid political broadcasts became apparent. First, people were far more interested in what candidates said about themselves than in what others said about them. Second, program length declined rapidly. Third, producers tried to make them visually interesting, and to introduce entertainment values. There was also an important impact on how conventions were conducted. For example, physical aspects were altered to create an optimal visual setting for the camera eye. Major events were rescheduled for prime time. The most consistent impact on the public across 1952-60 was the increase in voter interest and general political participation. Three possible reasons for this interest were a fascination with a new medium, a desire to see political leaders close-up, and a genuine desire to be politically aware. It is not entirely clear how these points relate to each other but the number of set owners increased dramatically. Voter turnout also grew. This interest in television, however, had little or no effect in changing how people actually voted.


Bibliography: pages [157]-166.


166 pages




Northern Illinois University

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